So your doctor has told you that your cholesterol is too high, but you want to try to lower your cholesterol naturally before trying a statin medication. You have lots of options available, but the problem is some of what you see online is either an outright scam or has little human clinical proof. Let's review 12 proven natural things you can incorporate into your diet and lifestyle, which have been shown to lower total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol. In addition, let's also highlight one popular supplement – that you may be taking right now – that does not work.
If you need to lose weight, there is ample research that this can help, such as this paper where 40 overweight boys and girls were put on a 10-week weight loss program. Following the trial, results showed that weight loss promoted significant reductions in oxidized bad cholesterol. Oxidized LDL are particles that tend to be smaller and much more atherogenic. Another paper reviewed the outcomes of 73 clinical trials, revealing that every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of weight loss was associated with reductions in LDL and triglycerides, leading these authors to conclude that weight loss in adults is associated with significant improvements in blood cholesterol levels.
In one paper, a 12-week strength training program was shown to significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in overweight post-menopausal women, and just to be equal, other research involving overweight men has also shown that combining both weight lifting and aerobic exercise training lowers LDL cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure, body weight, and percent body fat.
Eat More Nuts
In one paper, a hundred overweight people were put on a diet or that same diet that also included some walnuts. The amounts eaten each day amounted to between one and one and a half ounces. After six months, both groups lost about 9 pounds (4 kg), which makes sense since they were all dieting. However, only those who were eating the walnuts showed about a 10-point reduction in their LDL levels.
There is also evidence for pistachios too. When researchers recruited 60 people with pre-diabetes and had them eat two ounces of pistachios or a low-calorie diet each day for six months, pistachios were shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and fasting blood sugar oxidative stress and inflammation.
Almonds also have beneficial effects. In one investigation, 107 healthy younger and older people who consumed just two ounces of dry roasted non-salted almonds each day for six weeks lowered their LDL cholesterol more than those who did not eat almonds.
Aged Garlic Extract
Aged garlic extract, is an extract of garlic that is aged in steel drums for at least a year and whose health effects have been studied for decades for a variety of topics – including cholesterol health. In one such investigation, 51 overweight adults were given 3.6 grams of aged garlic extract each day for six weeks. Compared to placebo takers, those who took aged garlic extract supplements had significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and there were also reductions in inflammation markers as well, such as interleukin-6 and TNF alpha.
In another study, people taking 2.4 grams of Kyolic-aged garlic extract had less oxidized LDL, a form that is thought to be more artery-clogging. Interestingly, this benefit was not seen in people who took 6000 mg of regular garlic supplements.
Psyllium Husk Fiber
Psyllium is a soluble fiber and is also the type of fiber in Metamucil that you may have in your house right now. When 50 people with elevated cholesterol levels were instructed to consume 3.5 grams of psyllium three times a day (10.5 grams per day) with food like yogurt or take it with water, after just three weeks, those people had significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Total cholesterol dropped from 252 mg/dl to 239 mg/dl, and LDL declined from 174 mg/dl down to 162 mg/dl.
By the end of the investigation, these people still would have been considered to have elevated cholesterol, but this study only lasted three weeks so it may take longer for psyllium to lower cholesterol significantly. In a review of eight previous research studies, it was concluded that psyllium fiber could reduce total cholesterol by about 4% and bad LDL Levels by about 7%.
Glucomannan (Konjac Fiber)
Glucomannan is another kind of soluble fiber that is also known by the name konjac root extract. One review of the research concluded that glucomannan fiber could potentially lower total cholesterol levels by about 10% and LDL cholesterol by about 7%. Glucomannan fiber is relatively inexpensive, which may be one reason that it is sometimes incorporated into costly weight loss supplements.
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Glucomannan should not be confused with glucosamine, which is used to support joints and arthritis pain.
Beta-glucan is another type of soluble fiber found in many foods, most notably barley and oatmeal, as well as Brewer's yeast. In one review, beta-glucan from oatmeal consumed at dosages as low as just 3 grams lowered cholesterol and LDL Levels by between 5% and 10%, respectively. These beneficial effects occurred in people with healthy and elevated cholesterol levels. Studies showing beneficial effects have used amounts ranging from 3 grams to 15 grams per day. Beta-glucan is believed to work because it prevents the absorption of cholesterol from food and may also prevent cholesterol synthesis by the liver. According to the USDA, 3.5 oz of steel-cut oats has 3.62 grams of beta-glucans.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea, has been the subject of more clinical trials than you can shake a stick at – including improving heart health. In one review of 21 previous green tea clinical trials, it was concluded that drinking green tea might be expected to lower cholesterol by about 3 points and lower LDL cholesterol by about 5 points. This means green tea appears to have a rather modest effect on blood lipids lives, however, this popular health beverage may be something to consider as part of your overall cholesterol-reducing plan.
Plant sterols look like steroid hormones. However, they don't build muscle and they don't raise testosterone. Many have probably heard of beta sitosterol which is one of the most popular plant sterols known today and is found in many different foods ranging from fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and avocados.
Various clinical trials have revealed that adding plant sterols to the diet appears to have a cholesterol-lowering effect, such as this paper where the addition of plant sterols lowered LDL cholesterol by about 9% after just six weeks. Something else is that plant sterols also appear to enhance the effects of some cholesterol-lowering statin medications too.
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is probably one of the first things people think of when they consider natural ways to lower their cholesterol. This is because there are many clinical trials showing that red yeast rice appears to work. In a review, it was reported that red yeast rice significantly lowers total cholesterol, bad LDL cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. This natural supplement also has been shown to raise good HDL cholesterol.
However, there is something you need to know about red yeast rice; Red yeast rice works because it contains a natural statin compound called lovastatin (Monacolin K) as well as other natural statin chemicals. This means red yeast rice works like a natural statin drug. This also means red yeast rice has the potential to cause some of the same side effects as statin medications, including muscle pains and rhabdomyolysis. If you're unfamiliar with rhabdomyolysis, also called rhabdo, check out my book for more information.
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Berberine is found most notably in plants like goldenseal and barbary and has the unique distinction of having supporting research for both cholesterol and blood sugar lowering. Let's look at the cholesterol proof. In this paper 1,000 milligrams of berberine taken daily lowered cholesterol LDL levels and triglycerides after
just three months. In this review, it was reported that berberine seemed to work as well as some statin medications.
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Bergamot (KoksalGarry) is an extract of the Bergamot orange, and it's also found in small amounts in Earl Gray tea. Several clinical trials report bergamot produces favorable reductions in cholesterol. In one review of five previously conducted clinical trials, bergamot was demonstrated to lower total cholesterol, LDL levels, and triglycerides. At least one clinical trial appears to show that bergamot enhances the cholesterol-lowering effects of rosuvastatin (Crestor), a popular statin medication.
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Fish Oil Doesn't Work
Fish oil is a popular heart health supplement that reduces triglycerides. Big pharma latched on to this and has produced various EPA and DHA-based drugs, such as Lovaza and Vascepa. If you look long enough, you will find research that shows that fish oil lowers LDL levels, but sometimes researchers reduce dietary saturated fat in addition to giving people fish oil. This makes it difficult to know if fish oil -or eating less saturated fat -reduced LDL cholesterol.
Ironically, fish oil can raise bad LDL cholesterol. Other research appears to show taking more than 1000 mg of EPA and DHA may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.
How Much Works?
Here is a summary of the amounts of the different cholesterol-lowering supplements and lifestyle interventions that have been shown to be effective in clinical trials. Remember, this is just a summary. You should not take these amounts as gospel because everybody is different.
|Approximate Amounts Used|
|Aged garlic extract||600 mg to 2400 mg per day|
|Bergamot||1000 mg to 1500 mg per day|
|Berberine||500 mg to 1500 mg per day|
|Beta Glucan||10 g to 15 g per day|
|Exercise||at least 30 min of moderate exercise per day (150 min per week)|
|Green Tea||2- 3 cups per day (containing 150 to 2500mg catechins)|
|Nuts||1 oz to 2 oz per day|
|Plant sterols||1.8 g per day|
|Psyllium||3 g to 20 g per day|
|Red yeast rice||1g to 5 g per day|
|Weight loss||5% to 10% of body weight losing at least 10 pounds|
Supplement Safety Tips
Start with less than is recommended. This gives your body time to adjust to this new thing you're going to incorporate into your lifestyle. By taking less in the beginning, if side effects were to occur, you're minimizing those adverse effects.
If you take medications, there could be interactions between the supplements mentioned here and your medications. Even exercise and weight loss might impact the medications you take. So, when in doubt, speak to your doctor and pharmacist for more significant insights.
What Do I Suggest?
I would suggest starting with the basics, which include losing some weight, if necessary, getting more physically active, and adding more fiber to your diet. The research shows that these additions to your lifestyle can not only lower cholesterol but also provide a multitude of other benefits as well.